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   Inside Out - West: Monday January 16, 2006

Electrosensitivity

Electric circuit
Sick of modern life - allergic to electricity?

Can mod cons make you ill?

Imagine being allergic to modern life with every telephone, computer and kitchen appliance causing you severe pain and headaches.

It’s a condition known as Electrosensitivity and while it’s still very rare, a doctor from the West says it’s becoming increasingly common.

Others though claim there’s simply no evidence to prove it even exists.

Inside Out West hears the remarkable story of an award winning sculptor, from Charterhouse near Cheddar, who says her life’s been turned upside down by what amounts to an allergy to the 21st century.

Tingling sensation

The first time Margaret Lovell realised something was wrong was when she felt a tingling sensation every time she used a portable phone.

Margaret Lovell
Super sensitivity - Margaret Lovell suffered headaches

Before long she was complaining of severe headaches whenever she used electrical equipment.

She had to pack in her job as a college lecturer when the pain became too much to cope with.

No-one knows how widespread the condition is.

Estimates range from a few per thousand people to a few per million.

Dr David Dowson, who practices in Bath, is one of the country's leading experts in the field.

He's frustrated that very few doctors recognise the condition.

"We could do nothing and wait for several years and then realise it's too late and many of these patients might, by then, be markedly ill. Or we could err on the side of caution, accept the possibility of the diagnosis, and do something about it here and now."
Dr David Dowson

But those who believe in the causes of Electrosensitivity have had a setback recently with the publication of an official 42 page report by the Health Protection Agency.

"I think it's going to be a long term problem. I have been told the only way to overcome it is to avoid it. You cannot avoid these things in present day life, but certainly one just has to do one's best to avoid it."
Margaret Lovell who experiences electro-sensitivity

While it recognises that people like Margaret are suffering severe consequences, it goes on to say that there's no consistent scientific evidence of a link between the symptoms and electromagnetic fields.

But Margaret is so convinced about the cause of her symptoms that she's taken to sleeping in her garden shed.

She says, "it means I do get some relief and it helps me to get a better night's sleep, away from all things electrical".

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Sixty years of Slimbridge

Bewick Swan c/o Richard Taylor-Jones
Bewick's Swans make the annual trip to Slimbridge

Set on the floodplains of the River Severn, Slimbridge is a perfect winter habitat for the world's wetland birds.

For 60 years they've been feeding the wild birds and the thousands of birds have brought thousands of people to watch them.

Slimbridge was created in 1946 by the late Sir Peter Scott, son of Scott of the Antarctic.

He was the British gliding champion and from his bird's eye perspective he realised the potential of the Gloucestershire wetlands.

What he landed up with was a house and 23 acres of bird watching paradise. It was a perfect setting for a wildlife artist.

Sir Peter had already excelled at an extraordinary range of things - as a champion skater, an Olympic sailor, and a wartime naval commander.

Slimbridge c/o Richard Taylor-Jones
Slimbridge is a mecca for bird watchers

It was the sheer magnetism of the man that inspired others to follow in his footsteps.

And children have been coming back ever since to what is now the headquarters of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

In total, more than 4,000 acres are managed by WWT including seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest and five Special Protection Areas.

The work started by Sir Peter continues today under the watchful eye of his widow, Lady Philippa.

And the star attractions are the Bewick's Swans who fly in from Russia every year.

This year there are more swans than usual, making for spectacular feeding sessions at 4pm every day.

There is also a floodlit feed at 6.15pm.

Photo credits: Thanks to Richard Taylor-Jones.

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Move over Spiderman

Sebastien Foucan
Cult hero - 'Spiderman' Sebastien Foucan

There's a new craze sweeping through urban Bristol - "freerunning" has finally arrived in the West Country.

The activity is also known, more romantically, by its French name - "le parkour".

Inside Out West invites the Godfather of Parkour to come to Bristol, to demonstrate his agility to young people in the city.

Frenchman Sebastien Foucan became a cult hero for today’s teenagers when he performed stunning feats against the capital’s skyline in a programme called 'Jump London'.

Sebastien and his friends developed parkour from their childhood games on a Paris housing estate. But now it’s so much more than a game – it’s a movement that’s taking off all over the world.

Sebastien has run across and jumped over the capital’s most famous landmarks… but now he's going to Jump Bristol.

When the great man finally arrives – the Bristol lads show off their city centre so Sebastien can find inspiration from a new urban landscape.

Sebastien preparing to leap
Leap of faith - but Sebastien has years of practice to help him

At one stage he leaps onto the walls of the Lloyds TSB building and begins to climb, with a crowd of onlookers watching on amazed.

For Sebastien, parkour is not a sport, nor a competition - it’s a way of life, and a way of marrying his spirit with his environment.

But he stresses health and safety is an important consideration and parkour can be dangerous if it's not done correctly.

A teenager died in Oxfordshire recently jumping over a roof. It’s thought he was trying parkour.

Sebastien advises young people not to try anything they're uncomfortable with, and stresses he has 16 years of experience.

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